Brian Fallon, solo artist and singer, songwriter and guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem gives us his 20 favorite uses of guitar effects in songs. Effects nerds, rejoice!
“Midnight Special,” Creedence Clearwater Revival
I chose “Midnight Special” because of the great use of tremolo on the rhythm guitar. It's an old soul and R&B and rockabilly trick that has been forgotten for the most part. Try it out! Slow and steady!
“Beast of Burden,” The Rolling Stones
For me, it's all about taste and subtlety when it comes to rhythm guitar. This is the best use of a phaser in my opinion. It moves the rhythm track along and keeps things interesting when you repeat the same riff throughout the entire song. A good melody goes a long way and a well-placed effect does a lot to keep things interesting.
“All Along The Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix
Reverse echo is one of my favorite effects. Jimi takes it to heaven on this rendition of the Bob Dylan-penned classic. In breakdowns and bridges this is a great color shift in the song.
“Bulls on Parade,” Rage Against The Machine
Killer use of a wah-wah to push the riff into hyper impact. If you played this riff without the wah it would be heavy and masculine but not unique. What makes it great is the fluidity and punch of the wah. Great job to Tom Morello and Brendan O'Brien for this killer opening.
“Come As You Are,” Nirvana
Ahh... underwater chorus. Chorus got a bad name in the 80s but I'm here to prove to you that it can be amazing when used right. From Nirvana to the Smiths - like songwriters never say, "Don't bore us, step on a chorus."
“Take It Back,” Pink Floyd
I can't say enough about Pink Floyd. This later 90’s example shows you how delay can take things from cool to cinematic and epic with a few well-placed notes in the intro. The swells!!!!!!!
“How Soon Is Now?” The Smiths
Ahh, The Smiths...tremolo set to different times on three different amps played at the same time. Who ever said you only need one? Johnny Marr is a master in subtle effectiveness without going too far.
Side note - the Quicksand version of this song is monstrously cool!
"Plainsong,” The Cure
The opening of my favorite Cure album never ceases to amaze me. It hits harder than the heaviest metal album and it's dead clean...my overdrive opinions would probably send most pedal companies to my door with pitchforks The Boss Dimension C was the hero of this record. It's a beautiful chorus pedal from Boss Japan. No knobs, four presets, and you're off.
“It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” (Live at Hammersmith Odeon ’75), Bruce Springsteen
Ok - now this is the best use of an Echoplex EP3 I've ever heard. All those swells and tails and beautiful haunting notes are courtesy of one mashed up Telecaster, quick use of the volume knob, a 1958 Fender 4x10 Bassman and an Echoplex. You can get this same tone from the Avalanche Run set for slapback with the mix up around 10 o'clock and the repeats set to the higher side. Try it, see if you don't swell yourself to a smile. Volume swells on echo, forgotten gem!
“Rudie Can’t Fail,” The Clash
Another phaser win! See? Not just for funk anymore! So tight!
“Sultans of Swing,” Dire Straits
Now this is where I think compression beats overdrive and buries it in the ground. You get all the sustain but you don't lose yourself in the mix. People want to hear those licks and chords. Don't overuse the overdrive. Everyone piles on the OD chasing this or that tone, but really, it's so much in the fingers and how you play. Most compressors do color your tone a little like this Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer Mark Knopfler used on this song. But here's the thing...all those studios used compressors on the recording after the guitar was mic’d, so there you go. All those records we love the guitars on were recorded very clean. This is one of the finest examples. It's the precision with which the notes are played that makes the punch. Timing is everything. Timing. Is. Everything.
“Karma Police,” Radiohead
Another perfect example of reverse echo and oscillation used in a very musical way. Not to be overused. Lovely in small doses.
Some people say The Edge is overrated...I say he invented a style of delay and two notes, and sometimes that's all you need for a soundscape. He's a master of what he does. In my opinion, all the shredding in the world can't write a great song. Except Eddie Van Halen.
“Out There,” Dinosaur Jr.
Ok, J Mascis - he uses fuzz in the best ways. There's a song, then there's the fuzz part. Click that thing off after the riff or solo. And I feel it needs to be said...fuzz goes from 1-10 on the knob, and sometimes 10 isn't the best choice 100% of the time. Here J demonstrates that perfectly.
“Calgary,” Bon Iver
I think Bon Iver uses wonderful soundscapes for his songs. It's like they put you in another world. Very tasteful, never overdone. Love it. Subtle and well-placed delay!
“Wishlist,” Pearl Jam
Great use of delay, fuzz, and reverb by Mike McCready in the solo to this song. Also, another beautiful example of volume swells. You don't even need a volume pedal. You have those knobs on that guitar that can do a world of tricks if you play around.
“By The Way”, Red Hot Chili Peppers
I can't get enough of John Frusciante. He slams that Univibe down and it goes insane. Wah wah, Univibe, amazing. Say what you will about the Chilis but John is one of the best. And they do have good songs. If your friends say no, get new friends. ;)
“Star Spangled Banner,” Jimi Hendrix
This is the Univibe heaven. He was the master, and I love the sound of a killer Univibe. Not all are great, but when played well, it's amazing.
“Have A Cigar,” Pink Floyd
I'm not even sure what effect that is on this song's intro...but is this one of the coolest sounding songs ever? And, it's not even David Gilmour or Roger Waters singing...it's their friend and folk singer, Roy Harper! And it was a single! So cool they did that. Share the love!
“State Of Love and Trust,” Pearl Jam
This is such a killer song, it has all of my favorite things, reverse delay, reverb, wah wah solo, great riff, great everything. The drums alone are insane!!! And Eddie once gave me a handwritten note with the proper lyrics... Life event!